05.11.2009 - 06.11.2009
I have always liked wine, but have no real knowledge about it. I will know if i like it or not, and sometimes can give a vague description of why, though without recourse to any normally used words in describing wine. And providing I am not blindfolded, I will have a maybe 80% chance of being able to tell you if it is Red, White, Rose or maybe Beer. It is something that I have wanted to know a bit more about, but which realistically I don't think I ever will know much more of: I have sadly recently had to admit that my taste buds (like my sense of smell) are really pretty poor, at least in comparison to some, and nuances in taste and flavour are simply beyond me.
Listening to wine experts talk about ...deep flavour with the crisp tones of raspberry, a hint of Rosemary, zesty full palate and slightly lingering succulent tannins... - or whatever the heck it is that these people talk about - leaves me baffled: Are they honestly tasting this, or is it all some kind of deep elaborate joke that i am not in on? I have read a number of studies and stories where renowned experts have been caught out in blind tastings: In one famous experiment, only half a person (he was wavering) out of 100 experts realised that they were actually drinking white wine which had been doctored by the simple expedient of putting odourless and flavourless red food colouring into it. But despite such tales, there is obviously allot about wines that can be tasted by those with decent taste buds, and the fact that people can often tell the specific grape blends leaves me baffled, though with allot of respect. For me, it is just red wine!
Cape Town is not far from the Cape wineries, one of the best wine growing regions of the world, home to several major vineyards and hundreds of individual wineries, the vast majority of which offer tours and tastings. We couldn't come to South Africa and not indulge, especially as Maaret is a keen amateur connoisseur, and Fred is, well, simply an alcoholic. And so in the course of 2 days, we took in 5 vineyards (not actually very many, for assorted reasons too complex to mention here) across Stellenbosch – the main centre for wine tours -, Paarl (where we bought a dozen or so bottles to be shipped to Europe) and Hermanus, which has the great bonus of being off the normal wine tasting trails and thus much quieter, friendlier and more personal, but also, all free.
Logistically we could probably have worked it better: having a car meant the need for a sober driver [though to most South Africans at least, the sober part was not a consideration] which as (a) I was the only insured driver, and (b) as noted, my tastes are not always greatly honed, pretty much answered that one. We could have left the car for a day and taken a tour, but most were very expensive and also didn't go to vineyards of particular interest or curiosity to Maaret.
Which all mean't that it was mostly left to Maaret's palate, and over the course of the 5 vineyard, she tasted 32 different wines (i took small tastes of a handful). Going to vineyards – especially those with free tastings – and not drinking might sound like hell to many people, but I actually quite enjoyed it. Sure, It would have been nice to indulge on occasions, but In all likelihood I would pretty much have just ended up getting drunk and not got anything more out of it. I actually think that I learned allot more this way, and had a good and interesting time despite not drinking.
I also made notes and scored the tastings: I figured that normally, people end up tasting so many different wines that they either become drunk and/or the flavours and memories all start to merge together, and if asked later which they preferred and why, will probably have not the foggiest of ideas except for potential vague memories. This way, we would have a fairly reliable set of notes to use later and order wine if Maaret so chose, although it was noticeable that towards the end of the last tasting on day two, comments were becoming slightly less coherent and detailed as they had been earlier in the day...
And the best? For the record, Maaret and Fred generally both prefer red wine, so it was no surprise that her favourite – taken strictly from my notes and her scorings at the time: She will probably say it was a different one if asked now – was probably the 9.5 rated Beyerskloof Synergy Cape Blend 2006, a 70 Rand a bottle wine. The highest White was a 2008 Bouchard Finlayson Banc de Mer, the only white in the top 10 and in a group of six wines rated at 9.